07 January 2014

Science and the Book of Genesis Part 5

Lesson Five: There Is More in These Chapters Than Meets the Eye

The more I study the scriptures, the more I have learned to trust them. When I come to a puzzling verse, I do not automatically assume the passage is wrong, because there have been many times that further study has shown me that I was wrong in my initial assumptions or conclusions.

I ran into such a problem when David Larsen and I were studying the call of Enoch in the book of Moses, a topic that had been explored insightfully by Stephen Ricks.

Curiously, the closest biblical parallel to the wording of the opening verses of this passage is not to be found in the call of any Old Testament prophet but rather in the New Testament description of events following Jesus’ baptism. The detailed resemblances between Moses 6:26-27 and the accounts of the baptism of Jesus seemed an obvious case of borrowing from the Gospels by Joseph Smith. However, as I studied and prayed about the issue, as a result what I consider to be a process of inspiration, I came across an obscure article by Samuel Zinner. Zinner compares Hebrews 1:5-6 to passages relating to the father’s declaration of sonship at the baptism of Jesus in the Gospel of the Ebionites and the Gospel of the Hebrews. He also notes that the motifs of “rest” and “reigning” co-occur in these three texts as well as in the Coptic Gospel of Thomas. Finally, he argues for a “striking isomorphism” shared between 1 Enoch and the baptismal allusion in the Gospel of the Ebionites in a promise made by Enoch to the righteous: “and a bright light will shine upon you, and the voice of rest you will hear from heaven.”

In light of these (and additional passages relating these themes to the personage of the “Son of Man”), Zinner argues that the ideas behind all these passages “arose in an Enochic matrix.” In other words, the words from Joseph Smith’s writings on Enoch that I thought had been derived from the New Testament were thought instead by Zinner to have originated in ancient Enoch traditions that eventually made their way into the New Testament. Hence, the unexpected parallel to Jesus’ baptism in the book of Moses account of the calling of Enoch — which in a cursory analysis might have been looked upon as an obvious anachronism — is a passage with plausible Enochic affinities and possible Enochic origins.

More of a puzzle from a scientific perspective is the Tower of Babel story. On the one hand, the details of the Babylonian setting and construction techniques check out quite plausibly, even if the time frame for the story is difficult to pin down. On the other hand, in light of what is known about evolutionary linguistics the story of the confusion of languages at the Tower of Babel seems patently ridiculous.


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06 January 2014

In God's Image and Likeness 2 Preorder Sale

With estimated shipping in early February (next month), FairMormon is doing a discounted pre-sale on their site, linked here. The first edition of the book is hardcover and is anticipated to sell out quickly. You can see some excerpts of the new book here, and look over some of the advance reviews here. Visit either of the following stores to preorder your copy now: As always, feel free to contact Jeff with any insights or comments you might have!

Science and the Book of Genesis Part 4

Lesson Four: There Is a Deep Relationship Between Genesis 1-11 and the Liturgy and Layout of Temples

The Latter-day Saints have four basic Creation stories. In contrast to versions of the Creation story that emphasize the planning process of the heavenly council or the work involved in setting the physical processes in motion, the companion accounts in Genesis and the book of Moses provide a structure and a vocabulary that seem deliberately designed to highlight temple themes.

Louis Ginzberg’s reconstruction of ancient Jewish sources is consistent with this overall idea, as well as with the proposal that Genesis 1 may have been used as part of Israelite temple liturgy:
God told the angels: On the first day of creation, I shall make the heavens and stretch them out; so will Israel raise up the tabernacle as the dwelling place of my Glory. On the second day I shall put a division between the terrestrial waters and the heavenly waters, so will [my servant Moses] hang up a veil in the tabernacle to divide the Holy Place and the Most Holy. On the third day I shall make the earth to put forth grass and herbs; so will he, in obedience to my commands, … prepare shewbread before me. On the fourth day I shall make the luminaries; so he will stretch out a golden candlestick [menorah] before me. On the fifth day I shall create the birds; so he will fashion the cherubim with outstretched wings. On the sixth day I shall create man; so will Israel set aside a man from the sons of Aaron as high priest for my service.
Carrying this idea forward to a later epoch, Exodus 40:33 describes how Moses completed the Tabernacle. The Hebrew text exactly parallels the account of how God finished Creation. Genesis Rabbah comments: “It is as if, on that day [i.e., the day the Tabernacle was raised in the wilderness], I actually created the world.” A number of scholars have found parallels in the layout of the Garden of Eden and that of Israelite sanctuaries. For example, Brother Donald W. Parry describes the correspondence between Israelite temple ritual and Adam and Eve’s journey through the Garden of Eden as follows:
Anciently, once a year on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, Adam’s eastward expulsion from the Garden was reversed when the high priest traveled west past the consuming fire of sacrifice and the purifying water of the laver, through the veil woven with images of cherubim. Thus, he returned to the original point of creation, where he poured out the atoning blood of the sacrifice, reestablishing the covenant relationship with God.
In modern temples, the posterity of Adam and Eve likewise trace the footsteps of their first parents both away from Eden and also in their subsequent journey of return and reunion.


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